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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wildcats go wild after win

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More than 30 minutes after Kansas State's basketball team stunned a predominantly pro-Kansas University crowd at Allen Fieldhouse, the southwest corner of the old barn kept rockin'.

Hundreds of K-State fans - some too young even to have been alive when the Wildcats last beat the Jayhawks - were celebrating in giddy fashion after KSU's 59-55 victory Saturday, chanting the names of everyone to come out of KSU's locker room and begging for high-fives from them at the same time.

It was deafening 100 feet away, under a stairwell, where media members were trying to conduct interviews with KSU players. One reporter quipped it almost sounded like a game still was being played in the fieldhouse.

Keep in mind, of course, just how long it had been since KSU topped KU. Twelve years. Thirty-one games. Three coaches. Too much mediocrity.

"I don't have any words to say how it felt," senior Schyler Thomas said. "It's the type of game you dream about."

The postgame celebration reflected such magnitude. KSU coach Jim Wooldridge sought out Cartier Martin at center court and gave him a huge bear hug.

Akeem Wright and Tyler Hughes each took time to taunt the KU student section.

Martin emerged to the reporter's area and shouted, "All right!" before calming down to do interviews.

And Wooldridge, with more at stake than any player, seemed to have the weight of a state lifted off his shoulders - after acting unusually depressed following a horrid showing Wednesday in a 57-42 home loss to Nebraska.

"Pretty unbelievable," Wooldridge said. "Wednesday to Saturday? Pretty unbelievable."

Against the Huskers, Kansas State made five two-point baskets the entire night and was lucky to hit 40 points in the 40-minute game.

But against Kansas, the Wildcats' zone defense that kept the Jayhawks contained long enough. Slowly, KSU erased a 12-point deficit that seemed destined to spell the usual doom for Wildcat faithful.

Dramane Diarra made long jumpers. Thomas provided a spark. Seldom-scoring Clent Stewart dropped 15 points, many in the key second-half surge.

In the end, it was KSU's 19-4 run that broke KU's back - and broke a massive streak in the process.

"The locker room was crazy," Diarra said. "Everybody jumping, everybody yelling, screaming, crying. : Not me, though. I'm tough."

The relief could be sensed in every Wildcats' voice - not to mention the hundreds of fans who stuck around to show their appreciation afterward.

"It's difficult to explain. It really is," Wooldridge said. "The week has been really difficult. I thought the way we played in the first half was maybe a reflection of the week.

"And then, for whatever reason, we were able to regain some composure and play with some poise and play our best half of basketball to beat a very good basketball team on their home floor. It's an improbable win."

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